A survey of voter sentiment in swing states finds that four out of five likely voters wants U.S. political leaders to avert the danger of automatic cuts to the federal budget before the November election. The across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, are mandated by the Budget Control Act passed a year ago, and would impose a ten-percent reduction in federal discretionary spending. Half the cuts would come from defense and the other half from domestic programs.
The survey, conducted by the public-opinion research organization founded by Lou Harris in 1956, found a high level of voter awareness and concern about the looming threat of sequestration. Within the scientifically-selected sample of 4,000 voters, 77% were aware of the planned budget cuts, and 80% expressed a preference that the cuts be averted before November. The sample was distributed across five swing states — Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia — that are likely to decide the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. Voter awareness and concern was highest in Virginia, but more than three out of four voters favored preventing sequestration in every state where the poll was conducted.
The sequestration provisions of the budget act were enacted with the goal of pressuring both parties to compromise in achieving deficit reduction. The procedures mandated are thus quite harsh, and authors of the act said at the time they never expected sequestration to actually be implemented. However, little progress has been made in the last year on changing the law or reining in the deficit. Thus, sequestration is still scheduled to trigger on January 2, and adjust downward the baseline of federal discretionary spending by about a trillion dollars over the following nine years. Studies commissioned by the Aerospace Industries Association and other organizations have found that sequestration would eliminate many thousands of jobs and reduce the economy’s rate of growth.
Politicians in both parties appear to be calculating that they might be in a better bargaining position if they wait until after the election to address budget issues. However, the poll results from five swing states suggest this approach is contrary to the preferences of most voters, and may influence how they cast their ballots in November. As Aerospace Industries Association President & CEO Marion C. Blakey put it, “We’ve always known that sequestration is bad policy; now we know it’s bad politics as well.”
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